On the Nth Reading of Ulysses


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On the Nth Reading of Ulysses

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Aug 21, 2006, 12:48pm

I am currently in the middle of my third reading of Ulysses, a number that I imagine will be rather low for this group. Without the pressures of school, I'm really able to just focus on what stands out for me.

For this reading there are two major aspects of the book that I've come to appreciate more than the other times I've read it. First, Bloom's kindness. I always knew Bloom was kind and was aware of his bigger displays of kindness, for example asking after Mrs. Purefoy and donating 5 schillings to the Dignham's. But in this reading I'm seeing his kindness play out on a number of different levels. For example in Episode 5, we see Bloom "With careful tread he passed over a hopscotch court with its forgotten pickeystone." Most would simply walk over it, as the children aren't there using it, but Bloom emphathizes with the activity of drawing the court in the first place and makes sure he doesn't disturb it.

The second aspect I've noticed this time are the short but perfectly rendered images that fill the book. For example from Episode 8 "This is the very worst hour of the day. Vitality. Dull, gloomy: hate this hour. Feel as if I have been eaten and spewed." and from Episode 10, "With gaping mouth and head far back he stood still and, after an instant, sneezed loudly."

In this topic, I'd like to see what others have noticed after reading Ulysses for the Nth time.

Nov 16, 2010, 12:47am

Just started another (fourth?) reading of Ulysses, this time along with the excellent Naxos unabridged audio book. Quite a different experience following along. One catches things that are missed when reading alone. And following along in the book keeps my mind from wandering off like it might if I just tried to listen to the narration by itself. I'm not sure I could do that. Ineluctable modality of the visible: At least that if no more...

Nov 19, 2010, 9:34pm

This is a great question. I experienced a mutation of my appreciation of Ulysses after my most recent "reading" (October 2010). I'll tell you what I came to think in a second, but first I'll give you a concise reading history.
I first read Ulysses in 1972 (still in high school); I reread it somewhere along the line; I rereread it in graduate school in 1984. So there are three temporal front-to-back readings. Between 1972 and 2010 I never stopped reading Ulysses as I imagine most lovers of the book read it: Reading it in spots. Opening at random. Remembering it often. Savoring aleatory pleasure when opening at random. In memory, rehearing "plump Buck" and realizing that the same tonality in those two words is everpresent in Shakespeare's sonnets, even if they are an iamb in a mirror.
Last month I listened to the Naxos recording (Jim Norton with Marcella Riordan), start to finish, quite quickly. With Norton's emphasis, I noticed a lot of new things. But what I especially noticed this time around, and I know this is a satellite point of view, is this:
Leopold Bloom is Joyce's hero. I mean Joyce's Big Hero. (I don't like the word hero either.) The new womanly man Bloom expresses and acts all that can be good and kind and heartbroken in man and woman.
That's what I learned in my recent reading, and I don't think subsequent readings will change that.